Shakti Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee) is among the prominent Bengali poets and writers of 20th century Bengal. He is one of the most read poets next to Jibananada Das of the post-Tagore era of Bengali literature. Shakti Chattopadhyay was also the most famous poet of his era. He was the Hungry generation poets, which changed the course of Bengali poetry once for all. He was one of the founder members of the Hungry generation movement which started with the publication of a one page bulletin in November, 1961.
Shakti Chattopadhyay was born at Baharu village in modern-day South 24 Parganas district, Paschim Banga (West Bengal), India to Bamanath Chattopadhyay and Kamala Devi. He lost his father at the age of four and brought up by his maternal grandfather. He came to Bagbazar, Calcutta in 1948 and got admitted to Maharaja Cossimbazar Polytechnic School in class VIII. Here he was introduced to Marxism by a teacher. In 1949 he established Pragati Library and started a handwritten magazine, Pragati, which was soon changed into a printed one, changing the name to Bahnishikha. He passed Matriculation Examination in 1951 and got admitted to City College (Mirzapur branch) to study commerce as his maternal uncle, who was a businessman and also his guardian, promised him a job of an accountant. It was the same year when he got membership of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Shakti was a commerce student till his Intermediate but he was more interested in Bengali so he gave up studying commerce and took Bengali literature as his honors paper when he got admitted in Presidency College in 1953, but he didn’t appear for his examination.
Works and Contribution:
In 1950s Shakti Chattopadhyay had started writing, but usually he was associated with the generation of poets in 1960’s. Regarded with great acclaim in Bengali literature, Shakti is equally well known for his legendary bohemian lifestyle. Most of his life was spent in Kolkata, India. During Allen Ginsberg’s stay in India, the American poet is said to have developed a close friendship with Shakti Chattopadhyay, and both are said to have influenced each other in various ways.
The major poetic works of Shakti Chattopadhyay include-
- #Abani Bari Aachho
- #Jete pari kintu kano jabo
- #Hey prem hey noishshobdo
- #Dharmeo aachho jirafeo achho
- #Shonar machhi khun korechhi
- #Hemonter aronney aami postman
- #Parer kantha matir bari
- #Choturdoshpodi kobitaboli
- #Probhu noshto hoe jai
- #Shukhe achhi
- #Ishshor thaken jole
- #Ostrer gourob hin eka
- #Jolonto rumal
- #Chhinno Bichhinno
- #Shundor ekhane noe
- #Kobitar tulo ore
- #Aami chhiṛe pheli chhondo tontujal
- #Hemonto jekhane thake
- #Ei aami je pathore
He was honoured by the ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ for his collection of poetry entitled “Jete Pari Kintu Keno Jabo?” (I can go, but, why should I go?) in the year 1983.
During the American poet Allen Ginsberg stay in India, he is said to have developed a close friendship with Shakti Chattopadhyay, and both are said to have influenced by each other in various ways.
While his stay at Chaibasa of Singbhum district in Bihar (now in Jharkhand) where he was guest of Samir Roychoudhury for a few years and from there his life changed from novelist to one of the best lyric poets when Shakti Chattopadhyay fell in love with Samir’s sister-in-law. He wrote around two thousand five hundred poems which were published through forty-five books.
The legend, who leads a bohemian life, had passed away on March 23, 1995.
Impact on Bengal:
Shakti Chattopadhyay’s work brings the reader in touch with life’s loneliness, anxiety, dislocation and redemptive commitment to beauty. It may be said that Shakti is a leading light in the starry constellation of poetic talents of modern Bengal. Along with Sunil Gangopadhyay (Ganguly), Shakti Chattopadhyay remains the most famous poet of his generation. He was the leader of the Hungryalists, also known as the Hungry generation’s poets, which changed the course of Bengali poetry once for all.